What a good of eating. First, I made my second ever trek out to Hot Doug's Sausage Superstore and Encased Meat Emporium to gather lunch for the office. I can't say enough about this place. This is the second time we've faxed in a large order for pick up - both times the orders were ready when we got there, and the staff was incredibly friendly. When you're going to a hot dog joint that serves the likes of " Blue Cheese Pork Sausage with Creamy Pear Sauce and Smoked Almonds" you almost expect a certain level of pretension and stand-offishness from the staff. This is Chicago after all. But no deal. Nice folks. Both times too the orders have been perfectly assembled without a single condiment mistakenly missed or added.
And the food? Oh man....I never thought I could like any kind of "encased meat" so much. Both times I've tried one of their pricey weekly specials. Last time it was a Ribeye sausage with swiss and horseradish sauce ($7). It was wonderful. The sausage was flavorful - the toppings a great match. Today it was Duck Sausage with citrus mustard, tilsiter cheese (I don't pretend to have a clue what kind of cheese that is), and mandarin oranges ($7). This one, while still very good, wasn't perfect. The mustard was a bit too much and completely overpowered. When I got to the end of the roll I finally got a mostly unadorned bite of the sausage and discovered it was excellent on it's own, making me wish I had actually tasted much more of it. Other folks in the office have ordered a nice cross section of items from both the regular menu, and the weekly specials - including $1.25 hot dogs, $3 beer soaked brats, chicken sausage (The Shawon Dunston), and others. No complaints - not a single one. Many positive remarks.
The only caveat I would offer is in regard to their much ballyhooed "duck-fat fries". They're only available Friday and Saturday and are $3.50 for a large helping. We did a side by side comparison between the DFF and the regular handcut fries and couldn't really discern a flavor or significant texture difference. The regular fries are great - save yourself $1.50 and skip the duck fat.
The place is a bit off the beaten path, though not far off the Kennedy. No dedicated parking, but both times I've been there (weekday lunch hour) unmetered street parking was available nearby. The first time I was there, there was a line out the door and it was about a 10 minute wait (I was then informed that having faxed my order in I could have bypassed the line). Today there was almost no line when I arrived, but by the time I left there were about 5 or 6 people waiting to order. There is a moderate amount of seating, though the first time I was there it seemed people were experiencing short waits for a table.
Dinner tonight was also excellent. We went to the Celtic Knot in Evanston. This was my 3rd time there, and the best food I've had there. I always have a hard time choosing as so much on their menu sounds great, but I went with the Stilton Burger tonight and it was the best I've ever had. The Stilton was perfect - very flavorful, but not overly pungent, along with a good amount of carmelized onions and mustard. The steak fries that came with it were also very good.
Jennifer had the "Celtic Collection" which is a sampler plate with fish & chips, corned beef and cabbage, and lamb stew. She was very happy with all of it. I was quite fond of the horseradish sauce that came with it and kept dipping my fries in it.
Service wasn't horrible, but it wasn't great either. Our waitress seemed to be the only one in the dining room area and while everything was fine and happened in a timely manner, there were no smiles or pleasantries at all.